My “BACK” Story

Everyone has their own unique story about how they started their journey towards living a healthy lifestyle. Asking someone about their fitness journey is honestly is one of my favorite conversation starters because it really shows how different everyone is. Plus the different paths we can all take to end up at the same place, working towards feeling good and being our best self.

My story started when I was 16 years old, I danced competitively throughout middle school and into high school. Around my sophomore year, I started having persistent pain in my hips and lower back. After many doctor visits with my parents, we kept getting the same reasons, “It’s just growing pains” (now if you’ve never met me, I’m 5’2 so clearly this wasn’t the issue) Some actually mentioned that my muscles are just tight from dancing for several hours each day, but I was freakishly flexible so once again I knew that wasn’t it. This kept going on until one day at school I the pain was so unbearable I just sad down walking to class and started crying. I will never forget sitting down and not even being able to explain the amount of pain I was in, I knew something just wasn’t right. 

I started getting X-rays, and MRI’s done to see where the pain was coming from. After several visits I saw a spine specialist and was diagnosed with Spondylolisthesis. Basically, my spine was separating from itself in my lower back (for my anatomy lovers L5-S1). 

After speaking with a few orthopedic surgeons, it was determined that as long as I could handle the pain we could put off the surgery for a little while longer, so I can finish up school and not have any issues. The vertebrae slipping would continue to move at a slow rate, so I would have warning signs before it got to the point of paralyzing me. So I decided to put off surgery until after I graduated high school. Regrettably, I spent two years causing more damage to my spine and taking large amounts of pain medication just to help ease the pain so I could continue dancing. (We did win two national titles during that time so I guess it wasn’t all bad.)

I went in for surgery 5 days after I graduated and 4 days after turning 18 years old. The surgery took 6 hours, the doctors started with a 5-inch incision on my stomach and push my vertebra back into place the screwed in a metal plate to stabilize my spine. After they flip me over to finish the surgery with screw more incisions and 4 screws to hold the vertebras in place. I now have 6 two-inch titanium screws, a metal plate, and a replacement disk, but I can still go through a metal detector with no issues. 😉

After the surgery, I was in the hospital for a week. I was on so much medication I don’t really remember the first few days at all! It almost felt like one of those movie scenes, where the person tries to open their eyes but they don’t open all the way and they can just see their eyelids and a little light and make out people in the room. After a few days, they had me doing “exercises” which was just me trying to sit up, stand and using a walker to take a few steps. I had to actually learn how to walk up the stairs again, which at age 18 felt crazy!

Once I was cleared to start physical activity again I started doing some private Pilates sessions at Pilates Collective in Sebastopol, CA. Quickly I began to notice the benefits of Pilates beyond just for rehabilitation and I fell in love with the method. I knew I wanted to be an instructor and share this new found passion with others. I started my certification training back in 2010, I now am able to teach Pilates and Barre. It’s because of Pilates that I can now walk pain-free without any medication! 

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